During a recent visit to Arlington High School in New York, Rachel’s Challenge was interviewing the students about their “Hands on Walls” when they were eager and excited to share about a few of their other FOR Club projects. One of the projects was their Peace Pole garden that encourages an atmosphere of kindness. Christopher Babb, the Friends of Rachel Club Advisor and Social Worker at the school, shared the story of how his school discovered an old water fountain dedicated to Columbine, and then relocated it and expanded their vision for it with other kindess decorative elements. Watch the videos of the Peace Pole Garden and their rod iron Friends of Rachel bench below.
IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT FEELING GOOD FOR ONE DAY HERE AT ARLINGTON HIGH SCHOOL. IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT A SHIFT IN CLIMATE, IT’S ABOUT A CULTURAL SHIFT.
Rachel’s Challenge: What is the Peace Pole Garden?
Chris: So we’re standing now around the courtyard where the Arlington High School Peace Pole Garden is located. At the center of the Peace Pole Garden is the Columbine Memorial Fountain which was dedicated a month after the Columbine tragedy, May 1999, by our then 10th grade Honors English teacher. She retired prior to me coming to work here. As a result of that, and just time in and of itself, the fountain had fallen into a state of disrepair. It had been forgotten and things were overgrown. By happenstance, about a year or so, after we started the club here at the high school, we discovered there is a fountain and it’s dedicated the Columbine. So we decided to relocate it to a more prominent location. That location is here outside our auditorium lobby. We felt that by putting it here, it would then be able to be viewed and seen by people who come for plays and for musical performances. When they go out to the lobby during intermission, they will be able to see it. A couple years ago, we were approached by the World Peace Bell organization who had heard some of the good things we doing here, the high school with the students and the Friends of Rachel Club. They asked if we’d be willing to do a Peace Pole Garden. At the time I didn’t know what it was and what it entailed. They asked if we’d be willing to put a Peace Pole up. It was my enthusiasm of a competitive nature to want to really make it stand out and envelop the Columbine Fountain. And so we decided to do four Peace Poles and add a lot of landscaping around it. It’s pretty ornate, it’s something that we’re proud of. It becomes a focal point for people who come into the auditorium lobby. It does catch their eye. And then our hope is that, like our Hands Wall, it becomes a living breathing legacy that is ever-expanding ever-growing. We can always do more things out here with it. Last year, we added a bench dedicated to Rachel Scott by the Friends of Rachel club.
Rachel’s Challenge: So how does the Peace Pole Garden provide an atmosphere of kindness?
Chris: So one of the things that I think is pretty neat about this particular project, is that I think it does mirror, I think it does parallel a lot of the beliefs and the tenants that are at the core of the Rachel’s Challenge organization and all the assemblies that we’ve had here over the years. The significant saying on the Peace Pole itself is in multiple languages, “May peace prevail on earth”. The notion of starting a chain reaction and kinda going worldwide and touching millions of lives is not just about feeling good for one day here at Arlington High School. It’s not just about a shift in climate, it’s about a cultural shift. And if there’s something that says the importance of culture here of peace and harmony and an atmosphere that is centered around kindness and compassion, I think it is our Peach Pole Garden.
Rachel’s Challenge: How did this whole project come together?
Chris: This is something that came together as a result of many many people. We had local companies that donated some time and some money and some effort. Our maintenance department is top notch. They came in and dedicated their time and their supplies. They dedicated the concrete. They dug the post holes for us. They set them. They braced them. So while I am the advisor for the club, and in some ways at the front of things, it is really the notion that it takes a village and we have a lot of people between students and staff and community members who came together to make this sustain itself over the last 10 years.
Rachel’s Challenge: What is the Friends of Rachel bench?
Chris: So as I mentioned, you know, one of the extensions of this particular project was we thought that it was important for people to not just have an opportunity to pass by and see the Peace Pole Garden, but because it’s located in the courtyard outside of the auditorium lobby where a lot of events take place here the high school, we decided we wanted to put a bench in place. We thought the bench would serve as a place where family members and community people can come and sit. But also during the day if students have lunch or if they’re staying after school for musical rehearsals or play rehearsals, they can come and they can sit on the bench and they can reflect on possibly what their lives are about and how their life can positively impact somebody else’s life by continuing on that message of peace, kindness, compassion, and harmony.
Rachel’s Challenge: What is the purpose of the Friends of Rachel bench?
Chris: So there’s some significance in the Friends of Rachel bench itself. It’s a bench that, when you see it, along the backing of the bench it says, Friends of Rachel, in handcrafted rod iron. The significance is that Rachel Scott does matter and the students who are a part of the Friends of Rachel Club are carrying on her message and they’re the ones who are continuing to emulate and continue the chain reaction of kindness. We (FOR Club) are a presence here at the high school and the things that we stand for, and the things that Rachel stood for are ringing as strong and as loud today as they were 10 years ago when we started this.